DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
5 April 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Fred Eckhard:
**Transfer of Suspects in Lockerbie Case
Good Afternoon. The Secretary-General this morning confirmed the successful transfer to the Netherlands of the two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie case.
He thanked the Governments of Libya, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, which agreed on the formula of a trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law. The Secretary-General also thanked the Government of Italy for providing the plane used in the transfer.
The transfer took place from Libya to Valkenburg Airport in the Netherlands, where they arrived at 9:45 a.m., New York time.
Hans Corell, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, accompanied the two suspects and also made all the arrangements for the transfer.
The Secretary-General will inform the Security Council in writing of the successful transfer of the suspects, and the President of the Council is expected to make an announcement concerning the suspension of sanctions, which is automatic upon his receipt of the letter.
Questions of what happens next to the suspects should be addressed to the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands.
[Mr. Eckhard later announced that the Secretary-General had given a letter on the Libyan suspects to the Council President, Alain Dejammet of France].
The Secretary-General is currently attending Security Council consultations on Kosovo. He informed Council members that he reviewed the crisis with various heads of State and government over the weekend.
The Secretary-General also said that, further to consultations with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General Javier Solana, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, he accepted the offer by Alliance Member States to support the humanitarian operation under way in Albania and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Secretary-General said he dispatched his military advisor, Lieutenant General Giulio Fraticelli, to the region to help establish the coordination arrangements for the military personnel and the assets being placed at the disposal of UNHCR.
Mr. Fraticelli left on Saturday and arrived in Skopje, in The former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia, on Sunday.
The Secretary-General also announced his intention to name an envoy to the region to monitor and report on what he described as a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the region. He said more details will be forthcoming.
He told you in his press conference this morning he will take your questions on Kosovo as he exits the Security Council, at the stand-up microphone outside the Council.
Following the Secretary-General's briefing, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sergio Vieira de Mello, gave an update on the humanitarian dimensions of the emergency. Mr. Vieira de Mello strongly urged the Council to act on commitments made with respect to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that the first of tens of thousands of refugees trapped in a muddy no-man's land between Kosovo and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia began moving late Sunday night to a new centre established with NATO assistance. There, the refugees will receive an initial food ration, be registered and be given temporary accommodation until moving on to other locations.
The first group of Kosovars were scheduled to leave for Norway where the refugees will be hosted temporarily.
The total number of Kosovars who have left the province since the NATO air strikes began is nearly 400,000, including 226,000 in Albania, 120,000 in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and 35,700 in Montenegro.
An emergency meeting of 56 nations and many humanitarian organizations is scheduled to take place in Geneva tomorrow.
We will have in my office the latest updates, including a World Food Programme (WFP) report that three C-130 aircraft carrying emergency food supplies arrived in Tirana. Six flights are scheduled for tomorrow, and thereafter daily, 10 flights from Italy to Tirana.
The Security Council is having its weekly luncheon today with the Secretary-General, and during the consultations this morning, they adopted their programme of work for the month of April.
They have re-introduced a draft-text resolution on Guinea Bissau, which is expected to go into a final version tonight. A formal meeting is expected tomorrow on that draft.
The Secretary-General has appointed Moustapha Niasse as his Special Envoy for the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mr. Niasse was Foreign Minister of Senegal for a total of 10 years, from 1979 to 1984, and then again from 1993 to 1998.
During his first tenure as Foreign Minister, he was concurrently Prime Minister from 1983 to 1984, in charge of implementing Senegal's constitutional reform.
The Secretary-General informed the Security Council of Mr. Niasse's appointment on 1 April, and the Council members agreed with his decision.
Mr. Niasse leaves for the region by the end of the week. He's at Headquarters for consultations throughout this week, and we've been informed that he will not be in a position to speak to you until he returns from his first trip and reports to the Secretary-General.
We have his terms of reference for those of you who are interested, as well as a biographical note. Please ask in my office.
**Death of Aid Worker/Government Officials in Sudan
The following statement is attributable to the Spokesman:
"The Secretary-General was deeply distressed by the news of the death of a Sudanese Red Crescent worker and of three Government officials last week while in the custody of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).
The Four Sudanese had been accompanying an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team on mission near the southern Sudanese town of Bentiu on 18 February when they were detained by the SPLM/A. It is particularly disturbing that they died despite numerous appeals to their captors to ensure they physical safety.
Their deaths illustrate, yet again, the tragic and urgent need for protection for those who are trying to aid the victims of conflicts.
The United Nations endorses the call by the ICRC for a full and immediate inquiry into the circumstances surrounding these deaths so that those responsible for such acts may be brought to justice.
The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families affected by this tragedy, to the ICRC and to the Sudanese Government.
On East Timor, I'd like to inform you that the assessment team headed by Francesc Vendrell, Director of the Asia and Pacific Division, is concluding its mission this week and will soon be reporting to the Secretary-General on its findings, including on the security situation in East Timor.
The Secretary-General is seriously concerned by reports from East Timor and hopes that all facts of violence and intimidation will stop. It is important that nothing be done that could jeopardize the diplomatic process towards the settlement of the East Timor question.
**Address by Secretary-General
Tonight at 7 p.m. at the Plaza Hotel, the Secretary-General will address an event being organized in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Harvard AIDS Institute.
We have embargoed copies of the speech available in my office.
Finally, payments: today Myanmar paid its dues in full to the regular budget, with a check for over $83,000.
Fifty-five States are paid in full.
Your questions, if any?
Question: A question on freedom of inquiry. Has the Secretary-General or DPI (Department of Public Information) passed down any word that questions from accredited United Nations reporters are not to be stiffed out of hand?
Spokesman: What are you referring to, Tom? I don't know what you're talking about.
Question: I'm referring to the fact that three times that I can document, when there were no other hands in the air, my hand was ignored by you.
Spokesman: Why don't we discuss this outside the briefing. I don't think it's a matter for the briefing.
Question: Is the Secretary-General planning a trip to Belgrade or starting some kind of diplomatic initiative to end ethnic cleansing and the war?
Spokesman: As I said last week -- it's still true today -- at this time, he has no plans to go to Belgrade. He is focusing on the enormous humanitarian crisis that is overwhelming the relief workers. He has endorsed Mrs. Ogata's call to governments to provide some help, which now seems to be coming in the form of military support for the humanitarian efforts under way.
Otherwise, as before, he stays in close touch, and he's not going to take action for the sake of taking action. He will take action when he feels something could be accomplished.
Question: Just to confirm, one, that Hans Corell is an Assistant Secretary-General...
Spokesman: ... Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel. Those are his two titles.
Question: Would you please enlighten me because I got confused -- now, since the suspects have arrived in The Hague -- upon receiving the Secretary- General's report, the Council will take action to suspend the sanctions. What about lifting?
Spokesman: The suspension is automatic once the Council has received the Secretary-General's certification that the two suspects were handed over. No resolutions are needed.
The Council President, when he receives the letter, which should happen shortly, will inform other Council members and will most likely make a statement to you.
The sanctions resolution says that the sanctions would be lifted after an additional 90 days, upon the Council's acceptance of the Secretary- General's report addressing issues such as whether Libya is involved in any other international terrorism, and whether Libya is prepared to pay compensation to the victims (families) of the Lockerbie crash if these two suspects are found guilty.
So, he will be submitting that report in 90 days. If the Council accepts that report, then the sanctions will be lifted.
Question: Then, is it possible the sanctions -- if the Council doesn't accept the report -- could remain in a state of suspension?
Spokesman: Yes. To my knowledge, it would require a positive act of the Council to re-impose the sanctions. So, they would remain suspended indefinitely, without an additional positive action by the Council to re- impose the sanctions.
Question: If the two suspects are found guilty and if it is proven that they have acted on behalf of the Libyan Government, would the sanctions be imposed again?
Spokesman: We're talking about two different things. I said the case of compensation to the families of the victims -- if Libya is prepared to pay that compensation, if the two suspects are found guilty, which I think they already indicated that they are prepared to do -- that is one of the things that the Secretary-General has (been) asked to report to the Council on after 90 days. So, that will be one of the elements of his report: is Libya prepared to pay compensation in the case that the two are found guilty.
Question: The sanctions were imposed on Libya, not because it was not going to compensate the victims' families, but because of possible State- organized terrorism.
Spokesman: To my knowledge, the sanctions were imposed because Libya would not turn over these two suspects for trial. Now that the suspects have been turned over, the sanctions are suspended. If the Secretary-General reports that Libya is no longer involved, or is not involved in international terrorism and is willing to pay compensation -- and there may be a third element in there that he has to report on -- if he reports that and they accept his report, then there'll be a suspension.
Question: Will you be accompanying the Secretary-General on his trip to Geneva and Spain?
Spokesman: As of now, he still plans to leave tomorrow, and Monoel de Almeida e Silva, my Deputy, will be travelling with the Secretary-General. And, it's very nice to have a Deputy, thank you very much.
Question: Is the Secretary-General going to address the letter of the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia accusing him, if he fails to intervene in the conflict, of being an accomplice and undermining the United Nations system? The letter is very strong.
Spokesman: I don't have guidance on that point. I'll have to find out if he intends to reply, and whether we would make it public.
Question: Any plans on the Secretary-General's trip abroad to visit the Kosovo relief effort to take a look at how things are going?
Spokesman: Does the Secretary-General intend to go there personally? No, he relies on UNHCR, the World Food Programme and other United Nations agencies on the front lines there. He talks regularly -- sometimes daily -- with Mrs. Ogata. I think he feels he has a pretty good fix on the situation there, which is desperate.
Question: There is a story in The New York Times today on the making of biological weapons. Would the United Nations try to, at least, look into this matter.
Spokesman: Let me check with the Disarmament Department, and Under- Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala, to see if he has any reaction to that story.
Thank you very much.
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